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Poster: NAveryW Date: Aug 12, 2011 11:32pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Is Alice of Wonderland in Paris really public domain?

Even if the copyright wasn't renewed, the plots to a couple of the Madeline books are adapted into segments in the film. I've never seen the Madeline books said to be public domain-- and, if they're not, wouldn't the copyright holder of the books hold the copyright to those parts of the film as per the precedent set by Stewart v. Abend?

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Poster: HektorT Date: Aug 13, 2011 1:03pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is Alice of Wonderland in Paris really public domain?

The precedent set by Stewart vs Abend is not that a copyright owner also owns the derivative rights. That is basic law. The precedent is that the copyrights revert back to the owner when the copyright is renewed. In this case there were some extenuating circumstances, namely that the original copyright owner died and his successor sold the literary rights before the property came up for renewal. Although the original copyright holder had previously contractually agreed to renew the license when renewal time came up, the new owner refused to do so. So control reverted to him. This decision was used to pull It's a Wonderful Life out of the PD, normally I would venture to guess that if the original contract had been binding on the successors and assignees (the new owner) of the original copyright owner, the movie still would be PD. But in this ruling the Supreme Court said the successors are not bound by the agreement of the original copyright holder

So you've got a number of tests to fulfill before what you say could be valid. I think the lesson to be learned is that the ruling on a Wonderful Life does not apply to a large number of films.

This post was modified by HektorT on 2011-08-13 20:03:27

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Poster: NAveryW Date: Aug 13, 2011 3:45pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is Alice of Wonderland in Paris really public domain?

Thank you, but it feels rather wrong to determine that derivative works that fall out of copyright are at that point completely uncopyrighted-- for example, while I know the situation isn't entirely analogous, the copyright problems Sita Sings the Blues ran into, with the song recordings not being copyrighted but the songs still being under copyright. Is there a precedent that shows that an adaptation of a story that's still under copyright can be public domain? I could have sworn the It's a Wonderful Life case relied on the fact that the story of The Greatest Gift is still copyrighted.

This post was modified by NAveryW on 2011-08-13 22:45:16

This post was modified by NAveryW on 2011-08-13 22:45:38

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Poster: HektorT Date: Aug 14, 2011 6:10am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is Alice of Wonderland in Paris really public domain?

re: Sita Sings the Blues, you can watch an interview with the creator (who wanted to release a movie without talking to a real lawyer about including the stuff she "found" and used).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uN7upUXSFk&;feature=related

But it also illustrates the point that you are arguing doesn't make sense. If she had paid the $220,000 for music rights, then from that point on the underlying rights normally would have ceased to encumber the film forever and if the film became PD nobody could claim that it wasn't PD due to underlying rights. Also note that for the amount that she did pay, anybody can download the film for free (just like PD films here) and that she talks about the concept of signing over (selling) copyright.

@VideoCellar: This statement may be misleading:
"The best case to look at for this divide is the MPI/Batjac "Mclintock" cases, where the courts ruled that the common law rights in the screenplay and text did not allow Batjac to exercise exclusive rights over the public domain film, but that the statutory copyright in the music did extend EMI-United Artists Music the exclusive right to license and control the use of the music from the film. "

The music -- when synched with the film -- was and is PD (even when the music is copyrighted separately).

Example:

Type of Work: Music
Registration Number / Date: RE0000531720 / 1991-03-27
Renewal registration for: EU0000788059 / 1963-08-20
Title: McLintock’s theme. From McLintock. w & m Batjac Productions, Inc., employer for hire of Frank Devol & By Dunham.
Copyright Claimant: EMI Catalogue Partnership, successor in interest to Unart Music Corporation (PWH)
Variant title: McLintock’s theme. Other Title: McLintock

This post was modified by HektorT on 2011-08-14 13:10:22

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Poster: Administrator, Curator, or StaffVideo-Cellar Date: Aug 14, 2011 4:59pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is Alice of Wonderland in Paris really public domain?

It is not exactly true to say that the music as synchronised in the film is PD. The synchronisation itself is public domain, but the music is separately copyrighted and remains in copyright. However, its use in situ in the public domain film does not generally infringe that copyright. But, if that music was taken from the film and used out of context it would infringe the copyright.

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Poster: HektorT Date: Aug 14, 2011 5:11pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is Alice of Wonderland in Paris really public domain?

Yeah that's for sure. But my definition of synched refers to synchronization rights, which you refer to as in situ

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Poster: larus Date: Aug 14, 2011 7:20am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is Alice of Wonderland in Paris really public domain?

Since the McLintock! case is being mentioned, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in that case states that Good Times had acquired a music license from EMI to distribute the film. If the music was and is PD when synchronized to the film, why did Good Times need to secure a license?

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Poster: HektorT Date: Aug 14, 2011 9:27am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is Alice of Wonderland in Paris really public domain?

It doesn't say that GoodTimes acquired a license, it says:

"The music in the film was separately copyrighted, however, and is still protected by copyright law. GoodTimes' rights derive from United Artists ("UA"), which owned the music copyrights".

In this case the word "derive" means that GoodTimes has rights because UA had rights.

The decision refers to a footnote and discusses the contract between Batjac and UA:

"The contract separately conveyed to UA in perpetuity rights to musical works in the film. Although this section did not include a future technologies clause, the contract gave UA "any and all worldwide rights under copyright and otherwise . . . to the music and musical compositions recorded or contained upon the sound track of the Picture"

That confirms what I said above. Also explains that UA paid for music synchronisation rights *in perpetuity* whether or not the film was under copyright. They had to pay because the contract was made before the film was PD (i.e. before the film was ever released).

I understand this to mean that the court has confirmed that once you have sold the synch rights in perpetuity, you don't get them back if the film goes PD. On the other hand in this case the contract specifically addressed those issues.

This is now a legal discussion, which I'm not qualified to discuss...

This post was modified by HektorT on 2011-08-14 16:27:29

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Poster: larus Date: Aug 14, 2011 9:19am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is Alice of Wonderland in Paris really public domain?

It doesn't say that GoodTimes secured a license, it says:

"The music in the film was separately copyrighted, however, and is still protected by copyright law. GoodTimes' rights derive from United Artists ("UA"), which owned the music copyrights".

The decision refers to a footnote


Actually, the relevant footnote (the one you quoted above is Footnote 2, which is related to a different paragraph) from the decision says:
[ Footnote 1 ] EMI Catalogue Partnership ("EMI"), the successor in interest to UA, licensed to GoodTimes the right to use the musical compositions in connection with the manufacturing and distribution of the film.

So, why did Good Times need the license if the music, when synched with the film is supposed to remain PD?

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Poster: HektorT Date: Aug 14, 2011 10:20am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is Alice of Wonderland in Paris really public domain?

Yeah, I was just reading that again. I quoted section I of the Opinion. As I said, I am no lawyer ... Anyway, maybe GoodTimes paid for rights before 1991 which would be when the copyright came up for renewal. Or maybe they paid then realized that they didn't need to after the fact, which brought about the lawsuit? It's easy to find people to sell you PD stuff. Maybe videocellar might have more details on the historical facts.

EDIT: In fact the court didn't decide on the issue of whether or not the music when synched is PD

Look here (don't know if this is a summary or what - but it is the court decision):
http://ftp.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F3/81/81.F3d.881.94-56444.95-55632.html

"Understandably, MPI does not argue that the synchronization rights were part of the motion picture copyright, because they would have expired when the motion picture copyright expired. It also does not argue that the synchronization rights existed separately from the motion picture and music copyrights; if that were the case, because Batjac did not copyright the synchronization rights, they would be part of the public domain

We do not decide whether the synchronization rights existed as part of the music copyrights, the movie copyrights, or independently, because MPI cannot prevail under any theory of copyright law."

Also to answer your question, The court itself was silent on the issue of whether or not paying to license the music was required. In any event, the fact that they paid was not a factor in the decision, just a footnote (shows good intentions). GoodTimes was maybe playing it safe and decided to clear the music. But maybe they paid for nothing, because MPI (who brought the lawsuit) says EMI didn't have the right to sell any music rights. But once again, the court didn't rule on that. Look here:

http://articles.philly.com/1993-05-06/entertainment/25966641_1_mclintock-batjac-productions-mpi-tape

"GoodTimes lawyers say the only rights that it had to clear were the music rights, which it obtained in negotiations with music publisher EMI. MPI argues that EMI had rights to a soundtrack album but not to the music as part of the film."


This post was modified by HektorT on 2011-08-14 17:20:52

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Poster: Administrator, Curator, or StaffVideo-Cellar Date: Aug 13, 2011 11:30pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Is Alice of Wonderland in Paris really public domain?

For pre 1978 works, the courts generally have considered the line to be drawn at whether it is a common law (unpublished) copyright or a statutory (published) copyright under the 1909 Act in the underlying work.

If the underlying work is a common law copyright (in a literary text, music, etc.), courts have generally found that the underlying rights do not impact the film's passage into the public domain. Classic Film Museum V Warner Bros is a good example of such a decision. However, if the underlying work is a statutory (published or registered unpublished) copyright, courts have ruled that the copyright owner or their successor retains the rights to that specific underlying work and its use in the derivative even after the derivative has entered the public domain.

The doctrine is based on the idea that a statutory copyright under the 1909 Act is of limited duration, whereas a common law copyright was infinite and would offer an unfair workaround to limited copyright protection. There is also the issue of the amount of the unpublished underlying work that is effectively published by inclusion in the film. Section 3 of the Act (sometimes called the inseverability clause) allows for all new "copyrightable" works contained in a corporate work to be covered by the single copyright, such as a motion picture photoplay copyright. The clause specifically does not apply to works derivative of existing published or registered works.

The best case to look at for this divide is the MPI/Batjac "Mclintock" cases, where the courts ruled that the common law rights in the screenplay and text did not allow Batjac to exercise exclusive rights over the public domain film, but that the statutory copyright in the music did extend EMI-United Artists Music the exclusive right to license and control the use of the music from the film.

Stewart v Abend case was specifically about the rights in the underlying work in Rear Window.

This post was modified by Video-Cellar on 2011-08-14 06:30:31